American Viola Society Festival and Primrose Competition

Finalists announced in the 2018 Primrose International Viola Competition border=0 align=

Finalists announced in the 2018 Primrose International Viola Competition

June 14, 2018, 11:14 PM · LOS ANGELES - Congratulations to the finalists in the 2018 Primrose International Viola Competition, which were announced Thursday at the Colburn School. They are:

The Finals will take place Saturday, when contestants will play with cellist Lynn Harrell and pianist Jon Nakamatsu for a Chamber Music Round at 10 a.m.; then they will play with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra for the Concerto Round at 7:30 p.m., with the awards ceremony directly following. Go to's Facebook page to see the livestream of the finals.

Below is the video from the evening round that I saw, which included violists Leonid Plashinov-Johnson, Sarina Zickgraf, Daniel Orsen and Tobias Reifland. Below it I'll share some of my impressions, and below that is the video from the afternoon round.

Keep reading...

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Semi-finalists announced in the 2018 Primrose International Viola Competition

June 13, 2018, 9:24 PM · Congratulations to the semi-finalists announced Wednesday in the Primrose International Viola Competition!

These eight violists will continue tomorrow with in the semi-final round:

  • Zoë Martin-Koike, 27 of the U.S.
  • Mathis Rochat, 23 of France/Switzerland
  • Erika Gray, 22 of the U.S.
  • Hae-Sue Lee, 18 of South Korea
  • Leonid Plashinov-Johnson, 22 of the U.K.
  • Sarina Zickgraf, 26 of Germany
  • Daniel Orsen, 23 of the U.S.
  • Tobias Reifland, 23 of Germany

If you wish to watch the Primrose competition, the rounds will be live-streamed and archived on the Primrose competition's Facebook page (click here). Keep reading...

Jonah Sirota's 'Strong Sad': the Viola as an Instrument of Sadness

June 13, 2018, 9:19 AM · The viola has often been cast as an instrument of sadness -- the violist can't help but notice a disproportionate number of elegies written for the instrument.

Violist Jonah Sirota, formerly of the Chiara String Quartet, has decided to simply embrace his instrument's mournful nature and even celebrate it in his new album, Strong Sad, which will be officially released on June 22.

"I made this album not because I am particularly obsessed with the emotion of sadness, but because I believe in the humanity of every feeling," Sirota said. "We can’t have joy without sadness. We can’t be whole without knowing our brokenness. Each of the composers on this record has offered their own beautiful, vulnerable response to a sadness. Let us learn to mourn every day a little. To help heal ourselves, each other, and this world."

On Tuesday Sirota played selections from the album in a release-party concert that took place after sunset on a warm late-spring evening in Los Angeles, for a gathering that included violists who had come to town for the Primrose Competition and American Viola Society Festival and had made their way to the concert at a nearby art gallery called ArtShare-LA -- a few of them still wearing their lanyards. The program included new works by Sirota himself as well as works by other living composers: Paola Prestini, Rodney Lister, Valgeir Sigurdsson, Eve Beglarian and A.J. McCaffrey.

Beyond highlighting sadness and the work of contemporary composers, the concert also showed how well technology can reflect an artist's vision. Sirota has clearly made good friends with the loop pedal, electronics, pre-recorded material and videos, which only made this live concert feel even more alive. Keep reading...

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